James Governor's Monkchips

Database goes cheap cheap, gets simple?

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Simple database programming–is that a contradiction in terms?

Microsoft moved to kill its MSDE database product this week when it launched SQL Server Express as part of a broader Visual Studio Express announcement at its European TechEd 2004 event for developers. The strategy is important to Microsoft in protecting its developer franchise against the encroachment of open source alternatives such as MySQL used in conjunction with PHP or other scripting languages, and new low end products from proprietary database vendors such as IBM and Oracle. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then IBM Software Group marketers should feel flattered this week; it was IBM after all that drove the idea of “Express” versions of enterprise products into the marketplace.

MSDE has been a source of worry to Microsoft because it has made Microsoft’s database story less clean, and introduced issues over upgrade paths. Many ISVs made a decision to simply deploy MSDE in production, it being the database that the application was initially developed to, rather than “growing into” SQL Server. Low end developers targeted MSDE rather than SQLServer. This problem is even worse for Microsoft because it also offered another database code stream used by many small business and departmental developers in the shape of Microsoft Access. The developer edition is free, while prices for production runtimes to be announced early next year are set to recalibrate industry database pricing. We’re talking low with a capital L. Microsoft is set to double down and take the price war to IBM and Oracle. Of course in a world where open source databases are often free for download, aggressive pricing is not so surprising, but suffice to say that SMBs and departments should be ready for some enjoyable negotiations with database suppliers in 2005.

Meanwhile here in San Francisco at Java One, where I am this week, Sun put forward Sun Java Studio Creator (formerly known as Project Rave), a visual development tool with data binding capabilities, which will target forms-based applications and similar use cases as SQL Server Express.

For now IBM has no lightweight forms development tool equivalent to drive coding to DB2, but some will emerge soon from IBM’s Lotus Workplace group.

There is one area that Microsoft has nailed far more directly than its competitors however. Visual Studio Express offers support for the emerging Web Service hub platforms–eBay, Amazon and Paypal. As usual, Microsoft has understood what it needs to embrace and extend in order to help developers faster than its competitors.

This battle is set to run and run–how to turn low end programmers, and even non-programmers, into people that will generate useful code. Both Java and .NET claim around 4m developers in their respective communities. Now the fight is on to grow the pie and this grow Java or .NET.

This may not seem the most bloggish post in the world, but hey–time is of the essence. I have to get back to this JCP panel discussion I am sitting in on.

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